Adult-born granule cells (ABGCs) are involved in certain forms of hippocampus-dependent learning and memory. It has been proposed that young but functionally integrated ABGCs (4-weeks-old) specifically contribute to pattern separation functions of the dentate gyrus due to their heightened excitability, whereas old ABGCs (>8-weeks-old) lose these capabilities. Measuring multiple cellular and integrative characteristics of 3-10 weeks old individual ABGCs, we show that ABGCs consist of two functionally distinguishable populations showing highly distinct input integration properties (one group being highly sensitive to narrow input intensity ranges while the other group linearly reports input strength) that are largely independent of the cellular age and maturation stage, suggesting that 'classmate' cells (born during the same period) can contribute to the network with fundamentally different functions. Thus, ABGCs provide two temporally overlapping but functionally distinct neuronal cell populations, adding a novel level of complexity to our understanding of how life-long neurogenesis contributes to adult brain function.
Animal experimentation: All experimental procedures were performed in accordance with the ethical guidelines of the Institute of Experimental Medicine Protection of Research Subjects Committee (permission: 22.1/1760/003/2009) and were approved by the local virus safety committee.
- Gary L Westbrook, Vollum Institute, United States
© 2014, Brunner et al.
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The automatic initiation of actions can be highly functional. But occasionally these actions cannot be withheld and are released at inappropriate times, impulsively. Striatal activity has been shown to participate in the timing of action sequence initiation and it has been linked to impulsivity. Using a self-initiated task, we trained adult male rats to withhold a rewarded action sequence until a waiting time interval has elapsed. By analyzing neuronal activity we show that the striatal response preceding the initiation of the learned sequence is strongly modulated by the time subjects wait before eliciting the sequence. Interestingly, the modulation is steeper in adolescent rats, which show a strong prevalence of impulsive responses compared to adults. We hypothesize this anticipatory striatal activity reflects the animals’ subjective reward expectation, based on the elapsed waiting time, while the steeper waiting modulation in adolescence reflects age-related differences in temporal discounting, internal urgency states, or explore–exploit balance.
How dynamic interactions between nervous system regions in mammals performs online motor control remains an unsolved problem. In this paper, we show that feedback control is a simple, yet powerful way to understand the neural dynamics of sensorimotor control. We make our case using a minimal model comprising spinal cord, sensory and motor cortex, coupled by long connections that are plastic. It succeeds in learning how to perform reaching movements of a planar arm with 6 muscles in several directions from scratch. The model satisfies biological plausibility constraints, like neural implementation, transmission delays, local synaptic learning and continuous online learning. Using differential Hebbian plasticity the model can go from motor babbling to reaching arbitrary targets in less than 10 min of in silico time. Moreover, independently of the learning mechanism, properly configured feedback control has many emergent properties: neural populations in motor cortex show directional tuning and oscillatory dynamics, the spinal cord creates convergent force fields that add linearly, and movements are ataxic (as in a motor system without a cerebellum).